Watching at the doorway Daniel and Christopher watched as the pair walked up the path, the younger girl behind them seemed noticeably nervous looking up from beneath a parasol as though she expected the sky to fall in on her.
Christopher found himself un-nerved as they entered despite the humid summer weather and the long carriage ride not one of his guests sported a single drop of sweat, with complexions flawlessly reminding him of the finest porcelain they all seemed perfectly comfortable in the heat, not at all like most noblewomen who often at this time of year looked as thought they may faint when dressed up for such an occasion.
“Your highness” the woman courtesied offering Daniel her hand “I am Dutchess Sara Archangel, My companion here is my Vassal Baron Vincent Dacre and behind me my daughter Arabella.
“Duchess” Daniel replied taking her hand and kissing it lightly “I am Daniel Silverhands, soon to be King of Grimstead and this is Christopher Vaux, Lord over the Hallows”
Christopher watched with interest, he could tell by Daniels manner she’d irritated him using her titles. Duchess was a title ranking above mear lords it suggested she concidered herself lords over lords. Politic’s where hardly simple in Grimstead, but the feudal system as it stood was. Henry had been the King, the main noble family’s his vassal’s being granted land within Grimstead, their vassals being the merchant folk and freemen they in turn granted land to work.
The Vaux family where the first to attempt to expand the simple politic’s, the Hallows and Fraymont both belonging to his father, Orrick had then granted the hallows to Christopher making him a secondary vassal, still Thomas had not seen fit to promote Orricks title as it was assumed that one day Christopher would inherit both fiefs of land anyway.
The use of the title duchess and baron suggested a many layered feudal system, a carefully planned move on the lady’s part no doubt. Very clever, it had instantly thrown Daniel off he didn’t need to read minds to know that Daniel was now concerned about just how much power this woman controlled and how many vassals followed her.
Grimstead had at some point no doubt investigated this woman and her land, Christopher doubted greatly that Henry nor Thomas had simply ignored her presence, in-fact he knew they hadn’t as part of his duty’s when he’d joined the army Christopher himself had been sent on many reconnaissance missions into the ‘outlands’ areas not yet controlled by henry and he knew there where a number of powerful land holders Henry and Thomas had chosen so leave alone while they dealt with other matters.
It was of course no secret that any and all of that information had been lost when the royal journals had been stolen. Right now Daniel was blind, these nobles could claim to be anything they wanted and neither of them would be any the wiser.
“Please come though” Christopher nodded “Dinner will be ready shortly but before that I thought we could sit down and get to know one another”
“Sounds wonderful” Sara replied, following his lead as he guided them into the lounge, Christopher noted how confident the and Duchess and Baron seemed, the only one that seemed nervous was the younger girl who seemed to be somewhat distracted.
Reaching the lounge everyone took a seat, Christopher placing himself next to Arabelle in the hope that while Sara, Vincent and Daniel talked he could have a few more private words, perhaps glean some information that the two older wiser nobles would not wish to share.
“So Lady Archangel” Daniel began “I must say i’m intrigued as to why your family are approaching us now? Why not years ago?”
“Truth be told” Sara replied “My mother only died a few years ago, she was in control of the lands before me and she didn’t wish to involve herself with Grimstead, she believed you would try and take back the lands by force thinking a woman not a suitable vassal for it”
“And you do not?”
“I believe hiding from the problem wont make it go away” she replied with a smile “While if I’m honest I wasn’t sure your brother Thomas was in any fit state to barter with, I do believe you to be a far more able king and hope we can come to an arrangement suitable for both of us”
Very clever, Christopher thought she’s done her research knows that Daniel is young and easily impressed, appealing to his ego she seemed to be to playing to his arrogance.
“and in an idea world, what do you suggest?”
“I would hope that you would allow me to bring my lands into Grimstead, I would gift you them and in return you would allow me to retain control of them and the fiefs within them”
“That sounds very generous” Christopher interrupted “but why would you simply gift your lands to our king? Surely you already retain control of them im not sure what benefit there is for you?”
“The benefit is simple” The baron replied “Grimstead is growing, and while I don’t doubt we would be the last land you sought to control, you would at some point seek to control it. War serves no one”
“Do you think you have to military capability’s to stop us”
The man laughed “You can’t expect me to answer that surely?”
“Perhaps not” Christopher agreed “but we’ve left you alone till now, which leads me to belive our past kings felt you able”
“We have nothing to hide Vincent” the Duchess interrupted “We are here to negotiate a peaceful co-existance, the truth is right now yes we believe we have the capability’s to stop you, however unless we expand our area of influence within 10 years at Grimsteads current rate of growth we would struggle”
“So why not expand yourselves?” Christopher reasoned.
“I am not a militaristic woman” the Duchess replied “We could I grant you and if negotiations go badly then we will be forced to do that. However I don’t honestly see the need if we can come to a peaceful arrangement. It seems to me that allowing my estate to fall into the control of Grimstead is the best way for peace. I have watched your kingdom with interest, you do not seem to be savages, your noblemen are not dominated and crushed under the royal banner, in-fact I feel that my family’s best chance of growth is by joining with Grimstead, with access to your docks at Aelmead we could start trading with the mainland, trading with Darkfire and besides as part of Grimstead we would gain it’s protection would we not? Besides when all is said and done I do not own the land my family home sits on, it is mine mearly because you have chosen not to move me yet. On paper it does belong to the Silverhand family after all and my family historically where once a member of Grimstead nobility, it was only that the Silverhand’s, and before that the Darkfire’s abandoned it that we are not still members”
“How much land do you control?” Daniel asked. “You introduced the Baron as your vassal so I assume you have split control of your land amongst lower ranking noblemen”
“Yes thats correct it was to big for me to manage alone, the land is split into two the largest area I control, the second area to the west Vincent control’s, we also have some minor lords within that, for example we have Hector who lords over the forested area to the south, but he is hardly nobility and I would not expect him to be treated as such if we where to enter Grimstead, I assume you have lower ranking lords such as these”
“Yes we do” Christopher replied quickly realising Daniel would not understand,“Some are nobility others like our knights, others are just large landholders such our farmers” he explained for Daniels benefit as much as the Duchess.
“Exactly” she smiled “We have the same thing, you would not mistake Hector for nobility but he does control a portion of land and the men within it, so hold the title of lord”
Daniel nodded seeming greatful for Christopher’s clarity and was just about to speak when the door opened and one of the servants entered “Dinners ready milord” she smiled.
“Thank-you” Christopher smiled standing “This way please” he offered guiding them all into the dining room.